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Biggest snakes


The longest venomous snake in the world is the King Cobra. However, the biggest and longest snakes in the world all belong to the Boidae family (Boas and Pythons) and are not venomous. Though they can (and have) killed humans, they are, generally far less dangerous to us than their impressive size would make us think.

4. African Rock python, Rock Python, African Python (Python sebae)

Found in much of sub Saharan Africa: from Senegal east to Ethiopia and Somalia, including Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Upper Volta, Ghana, Togo, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe south to northern Namibia, Botswana and northeastern South Africa.

Two subspecies are currently recognized.

The African Rock Python, which can measure more than 6 m (20ft) - though more commonly around 4.8 m (16 ft) is one of the world's largest snakes.

It is a brown snake, with olive and tan irregular blotching, fading to white on the underside.

The African Rock Python inhabits grasslands and savannas, sometimes edges of forests or cane fields, always close to a source of water (rivers, streams, or marshes). It estivates deep in burrows made by other animals during the hottest and driest parts of the year.

Known for being aggressive and ready to bite if harassed (unlike the Indian/Burmese Python), the African Rock Python feeds on almost any suitably-sized prey: rodents, but also goats, gazelles, warthogs, young crocodiles, and even humans. Though attacks on humans are not very common, the African Rock Python is considered potentially very dangerous. Yet, although this snake can easily kill an adult, there are only a few cases in which the victim, generally a child, was actually consumed (the last known case was a 10-year old South African child, in 2002). As recently as Easter 2009, though, a farmer, having stepped on a Rock Python, was dragged by it up a tree, but managed to escape after calling for help on his mobile phone.

Females lay as many as 100 eggs at a time which they guard aggressively while they incubate for 2-3 months.

Like for many other pythons, this species' skin is used in the leather industry, to make shoes, belts, and wallets.

3. Indian Python, Asian Rock Python, Black-tailed Python, Burmese Python, Ajgar (in Hindi) (Python molurus)

Found in southern Asia. There are two subspecies, the Burmese Python (P. m. bivittatus), found in Myanmar (Burma), China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lao, and Indonesia, and the endangered Indian Python (P. m. molurus), found in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

Indian Pythons are beautifully patterned, varying in color from brown, to yellow, or off-white, with dark brown to black markings.
The Indian/Burmese Pythons are among the largest snakes on Earth. They are generally 12 to 16 feet long, but can often measure 7 meters (23 feet) or more (rare specimens of some 30 feet have been found) and weigh up to 90 kilos (200 pounds) with a girth as big as a telephone pole.
A Burmese python living at the Serpent Safari Park in Illinois, named "Baby", measures 8.23 meters (27 feet) and with a weight of 183 kg (403 pounds) is thought to be the world's heaviest living snake.

These pythons inhabit jungles and grassy marshes, valleys, woodlands, forests, grasslands, or even rocky foothills, always close to a source of water. Young Indian Pythons spend much of their time in the trees. Yet, as they mature and become too bulky, they become mainly ground-dwellers. They are also excellent swimmers, known to remain submerged for up to 30 minutes before surfacing for air.

Indian/Burmese Pythons feed on birds, snakes and mammals (rats, pigs, monkeys and even leopards and deer). These solitary snakes hunt at night. They have poor eyesight, and stalk their prey using chemical receptors in their tongues and heat-sensors along their jaws. Like other pythons and boas, they kill by constriction, grasping a victim with their sharp teeth, coiling their bodies around it, and squeezing until it suffocates. Thanks to stretchy ligaments in their jaws they can swallow their food whole.

If they are forced to move after a heavy meal, hard parts of the swallowed prey could tear through their body, so they often will disgorge their meal in order to escape from potential predators. After a big meal an Indian Python can fast for weeks... or even months (the longest recorded duration being 2 years!).

Females lay clutches of up to 100 eggs, which they incubate for 2-3 months. To keep their eggs warm, they continually contract, or shiver, their muscles coiled around the eggs. In the wild, Indian Pythons are though to live 20 to 25 years.

The main threat to the species (considered Near Threatened by the IUCN) is habitat loss due to agricultural development. Indian Pythons are also favorite as pets. Unfortunately these potentially huge constrictors are often poorly cared for and sometimes discarded into the wild. Attacks on handlers, by this normally docile species, are not uncommon (there are even rumors of deadly ones, though no authentic cases of a human being eaten by this species has yet been recorded).

Some Indian Pythons are illegally (the trade of pythons and any product that contains python parts is prohibited in India) killed for their fine skin or for meat, which is eaten by locals. The fat contained in their skin is also used in medicine.



2. Reticulated Python, Regal Python (Python reticulatus)

Found from Myanmar and India, across the Southeast Asia (Thailand, Malaysia...) and on many of the islands of the Philippines and Indonesia.

Reticulated pythons live in tropical forests where they can be found on the ground, in caves or in trees. They prey on animals ranging from mice, rats, lizards or frogs to monkeys, wild boars, and deer.
In an increasingly humanized world, the Reticulated Python has adapted to living in towns and cities where it hunts chickens, ducks, rats, cats, dogs and pigs. Now and then, and even in recent years, (though not very often), this snake captures and eats people too.

Pythons use their 100 teeth - curved towards the back of their mouth- to capture their prey and hold onto them as they kill the victims by coiling around them and squeezing. The prey is quickly unable to breath and its heart may be unable to pump blood: it dies in minutes and is swallowed whole, head first. The entire animal (including the bones) is digested in the snake's stomach except for fur or feathers, which are passed with the snakes waste.

After a large meal, Reticulated Pythons can stay without food for long: up to 679 days (almost 2 years) in captivity.

The Reticulated Python is the largest species of python living today. Its cousin, the Anaconda may grow larger or heavier, but the longest snakes found either in the wild or in captivity are reticulated pythons. The longest individual ever found in the wild - in 1912, on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi) measured 10 meters (33 feet).

The largest captive individual originated from Thailand and lived in Pittsburg Zoo, Pennsylvania. "Colossus" already measured 6.66 m (22 feet) when she was captured, in 1949, and 8.65 m (28 1/2 feet) eight years late, for a weight of more than 320 pounds.

Females may lay over 100 eggs in a clutch which they brood (keep at the right temperature) by wrapping their powerful bodies around them until they are ready to hatch.

Reticulated Pythons are hunted for their meat and especially for their beautifully patterned skins which are made into belts, wallets, vests and boots. Wild pythons are also captured live and sold as pets or to reptile exhibits and zoos. Young pythons are popular as pets, but as they grow large, they can inflict serious bites with their long sharp teeth and some people have been killed by the very large pythons that they have raised.

1. Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus)

Members of the boa family, Anacondas are found in South America, mainly in the tropical rain forests of the Amazon and Orinoco basins. They are solitary creatures that are rather shy and not often spotted, especially since they are very well camouflaged in their natural environment.
Anacondas hunt at night and sunbath during the day time in trees.
They are, however, semi aquatic and live in swamps, river shallows, and slow moving streams, catching animals that come to drink.

They are cumbersome on land, but excellent swimmers equipped with eyes and nasal openings on top of their heads, which allow them to lay in wait for prey while remaining nearly completely submerged.

Anacondas feed on fish, birds, turtles, wild pigs, deer, capybaras, other snakes, caimans, and even jaguars. Like all constrictor snakes, they are not venomous. They coil their muscular bodies around captured prey and squeeze until the animal asphyxiates. Prey can, alternatively be pulled and drowned in the water. Jaws attached by stretchy ligaments allow these snakes to swallow their prey whole, no matter the size. Anacondas can go weeks or even months without food after a big meal - it is estimated that they only need to feed 4 times a year-.

The Green Anaconda - females being significantly larger than the males- can measure more than 8.8 meters (29 feet), weigh more than 227 kg (550 pounds), reach a diameter of more than 30 cm (12 inches) and a girth of 90 cm (3 feet). Though the Reticulated Python can be slightly longer, the Green Anaconda is far bulkier, and thus considered the largest snake in the world.

Males compete for mating by making a breeding ball around one female which can last for almost a month. Like for other boas (as opposed to pythons), anacondas give birth to live young (24 to 36). Their lifespan is estimated at between 10 and 30 years in the wild.

The numbers of Anacondas are decreasing, notably because of habitat destruction. Most local peoples also kill these snakes on sight, so that this majestic "water boa" has learned to change direction when it senses humans. Though it is possible to be bitten by an Anaconda, the bite itself would not be fatal, and human deaths by an Anaconda are, in reality, rare.

Other species of Anaconda, which are not quite as big, are:

- Bolivian Anaconda (Eunectes beniensis).
- Dark-spotted anaconda (Eunectes deschauenseei).
- Yellow anaconda (Eunectes notaeus)

Sources:

http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/boa

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/burmese-python.html

http://www.earthsendangered.com/profile.asp?ID=3&sp=384
Indian Python 11155

http://www.reptilediscovery.com/retic.html
The Reticulated Python

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Python_sebae
Python sebae

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Python_molurus
Python molurus

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/green-anaconda.html

http://www.extremescience.com/BiggestSnake.htm

http://scienceray.com/biology/zoology/anaconda-world-longest-snake/
Anaconda: World Longest Snake

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